The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Media by Justin Wise

I have to admit that I rolled my eyes when I read the subtitle.  I figured Justin was just playing with words.  I didn’t expect there to be any real theological discussion in The Social Church. I figured it was going to be just a how-to manual on how churches can use social media better.

I was completely wrong.  The Social Church has a depth and breadth that I didn’t expect.  Justin definitely has a love of history, a love for the Bible and theology, and a love for the church.  All of these shine brightly throughout The Social Church.  He shares these thoughts in Social Church in a thought-provoking and engaging manner that does not feel like a history lesson.  Rather, he connects the dots of church history and theology so that we can form a more robust and comprehensive view of the new digital media of today.

Justin also is a student of general culture.  He sees the shifts that our current culture is making and shares how it is impacting all aspects of our life.  The goal of The Social Church is to awaken Christian leaders and lay people to embrace the possibilities that this new media offers them so that they can faithfully proclaim gospel of Jesus Christ as clearly as possible to the new social world.  I appreciated that Justin doesn’t just look at the new digital media with rose-tinted glasses.  He articulates warnings and challenges that the new technology can bring.

The Social Church gives some practical advice on how churches can overcome these challenges and embrace social media in a balanced way.  Honestly, if there was a minor shortfall of this book, it would be that I wish he had given a few more practical tips and examples of churches who are doing these things well. I personally learn from seeing, and I would love to see what churches are doing well so I can apply it to my own context.  I realize that things are always evolving, so churches that are cutting-edge now might not be in 6 months.  I would have been happy with a link to these resources online.  This is a social media book, so a Facebook group or an online forum for churches to share their struggles and ideas and give input to each other would have been even better.

What I most appreciated about The Social Church was the heart that Justin communicated for the church and Jesus.  This is why he wrote the book!  I loved the vision that he communicates: that social media should draw people to Christ and connect them deeper to the church rather than weaken it.  I think he is right on there.  The Social Church challenged me to think more about what my church’s big idea is and how I can communicate it more clearly.  It also helped me see that some of the things we were doing in social media are right on target.  Others we needed to look at differently.  Most of all it helped me realize that social media shouldn’t just be used as a bulletin board of information.  Rather, churches should harness its power to help create deeper connections, both inside and outside the church.

I wholeheartedly recommend you pick up a copy of The Social Media Church, whether you are an early adapter, a late adapter, or somewhere in between like me.  You will be entertained, engaged, and learn a ton from it.  Click here to purchase the book!

ChurchWP.net had the privilege of interviewing Justin Wise on Wednesday, January 29 @ 11:30 EST / 8:30 PST! Click here to sign up and watch it on Google On Air!

Here are some of my favorite quotes that highlight some of what I have shared:

On the power of Social Media

This is the power of new media to move people.  In Iran and Egypt social media has been used to organize mass demonstrations and protests to combat oppressive governments. This is how real movements are started.  This is how people network with real-world results. I think it’s important we understand our responsibility to use this power of new media to our advantage to spread the gospel.  -pg. 92, The Social Church by Justin Wise

Practical Advice

A good rule of thumb to use is the 80/20 law: 80 percent of the time, your social content should solely add value to your online community. No “asks,” no event invites, no promotional tweets, no invitations to church services, no bake sale invites, no pleading for volunteers—nothing of the sort for 80 percent of your social media content.  -pg. 78 The Social Church by Justin Wise

Observations and warnings about new digital media

What our fragmented, social media-driven culture makes up for in speed and efficiency, we lose in richness and depth. If the medium is the message, writing by hand is the slow cooker and social media is the microwave.  -pg. 106, The Social Church by Justin Wise

The danger behind technology—specifically behind technology related to digital communication—is when we become unaware (or, rather, remain unaware) of how a medium affects us.  -pg. 114, The Social Church by Justin Wise

Online campuses that exist solely to increase the convenience quotient in one’s life are detrimental and to be avoided at all costs. Online campuses are intended to facilitate connection to the church community, not replace it.  To the extent online campuses facilitate a connection between individuals and the Holy Spirit, they are beneficial and should be used whenever and however possible. -pg. 120, The Social Church by Justin Wise

 Observations about positives of social media and the church’s call to use it

But brevity doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. The embedded message in a social media culture forces us to drill down into what is essential. We are compelled to ask the question,“What is absolutely necessary in this situation?”  Brevity doesn’t need to imply skipping over critical information, either. Blaise Pascal is commonly cited as saying, “If I had more time, I would’ve written a shorter letter.” To be brief is tobe intentional. When we’re bound by time to produce or create intended results, the chaff has a way of falling to the floor in an expedited fashion.  -pg. 113, The Social Church by Justin Wise

Regardless of how we’re all trying to figure out how to integrate this new technology—this new movement—into our lives. We get it right. We get it wrong. We try again. It is here where I believe the church has a unique opportunity to lead people to a place of stillness and relearning how to connect with our Maker. If we’re willing, we can lead the conversation and model how to have a healthy relationship with the technology we’ve created.  -pg. 150, The Social Church by Justin Wise

I was given a free advance copy of The Social Church book because I signed up to be a member of the launch team.  However, this did not influenced my review of this book in any way.